Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Picture Not Taken

Over at Bush Babe's, she issued a challenge to us all. She wanted pictures of reflections. Right away, I thought of the previous night. I had gotten up to let my old dog out, and the bright moon was reflecting on the snow. It was really like Clement Moore had written, 'the moon on the breast of the new fallen snow gave the luster of midday to objects below.' And as I often do, I stood for a moment rueing my lack of photographic skill. I have not managed to ever take a night picture and have it turn out to be anything, and I don't know why that is, but really, that is breathtaking, to see the sparkle and dazzle of snow catching the reflection of the moon.

But today, among other things, I had a gift to drop off at Mary's house. It was her birthday last week. When we are together, we talk and talk and talk. I'd found a hilarious card of two old women talking to each other (remember the old days when you had to read cards...now they have sound!) and not able to hear each other. It was a good reminder: we're not as bad off as we're gonna be, so we'd best keep on talking a blue streak before we start getting deaf. I also had a CD for her. So after church, we came home, changed clothes, and headed first to check and make sure that the bitterly cold weather had not caused any pipes to burst in the houses downtown. Then we headed to Mary's and Danny's house.
I was delighted to see, when I got out of the car that the snow shimmered like a myriad of diamonds as the sun shone across it. I remembered Bush Babe's challenge and leapt from the car with my camera.
You can see just a bit of the shimmer, but in real life, that shine was everywhere. The snow sparkled so much it made your eyes hurt to look very long. The sun was reflected everywhere. It was magnificent. Unfortunately, you'll just have to take my word for it, because as I've noted before, I really suck at pictures.

So this is my contribution to BB's challenge to post pictures of the reflections in our world. It was a great picture. Sadly, you'll have to take my words on it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

On the Road with Tim and Debby

We ended up postponing the trip to tow Cara's car home. Yesterday was very cold and blustery. She's also probably got mono again. She sounded whipped. She slept yesterday afternoon. Tim thought we should let her be, just let her rest, keep her out of the cold. So we got up and headed off this morning instead. Inspired by Mikey and inspired by Bill, I decided to simply take my camera. I'm not apologizing for the bad shots. I mean, Bill's a professional photographer (please note: he is NOT a wedding photographer). Now Bill, being a professional, just posts his pictures with no apologies at all, and he has a large and devoted following. I'm not a professional photographer, so I can feel even less self conscious. And so, without further ado, here we go. This is just heading off our hill. This picture kind of illustrates how oil and agriculture coexist side by side. The plume of steam in the back ground is actually some distance away. It is the refinery.
Close up of a very small part of the refinery. Our county has lost a great deal of its industrial economic base. We have the refinery, Elwood City Steel Mill, Betts, and Whirley (check the bottom of your plastic drink mug. You might be surprised to find that you have a cup that came right from my town).

We were pulling the car dolly. Ooops. Bad news. One of the fenders was loose and bouncing because the unloaded trailer was so light.



We pulled off so Tim could check it. He needed a bungee cord, but strangely, there were none in our truck. He generally always has something like that, but not now, not when we needed it. This picture shows a falling down oil shanty left over from the old days. I live in oil country.


Brother Norm's welding shop is just down the road. We stop in, and lo, Norm has a bungee cord. The back hoe here? Before that was Norm's, it was ours. Before it was ours, it was Brother Dan's. Norm will have to keep it now, I imagine, because he doesn't have another brother to hand off to. (Side note: Tim now wants a bulldozer, because he sold his backhoe. Argh.)

And then we were coming into Sheffield, which is where Tim grew up. At least the last part of his growing up, he did there.
Wanna buy a house in Sheffield. The blue house is for sale, for $350,000. You can't really tell from this awful picture but this is a huge, huge house that extends far back from the road. Lots of privacy, I imagine. I just like the turret and the stone work though. Fairly sure that they would not allow me to buy just that part, haul it home and stick it on my own house. "Hey, Lady, it's all or nothing," they'd probably say. We live in an unreasonable world.
Tim stopped to check the car dolly, and I ran in and got myself a coffee, and I am disappointed to tell you that there was no revelation in my cup at all. Truly, I was expecting great things to happen when I drank this coffee. I believe this was false advertising, and that I should be refunded for this coffee.

We went through a number of small towns. By the time we'd reached here, we'd been through Clarendon, and Weldbank, and Tiona, and Sheffield, and Henry's Mills. We were just about to head into Lynch. Hi, Bob and Judy!
We love you!
TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!

The church in Vowinkel is always striking, popping up out of nowhere it seems.

Finally, the mighty Clarion River. We're almost there.

The gates at the entrance of Clarion College. We'd just stopped at the Subway to pick up a couple subs for lunch. Tim and I got a roasted chicken breast sub to share, and got Cara her favorite, a spicy Italian sub with black olives and banana peppers and sweet onion dressing. We figured that the other half of her sub would be good for supper tonight, and she can have a nice hot cup of soup. She also has a half dozen of those microwaveable 'pocket sandwiches' that she can have with soup tomorrow and even the day after, keeping herself out of the cold for a few days while she recuperates. Hopefully she'll feel a little better by Monday.

One of the old campus buildings right next to one of the newer campus buildings.

This is a gauged ear.
Ew.
We ate our subs in Cara's messy room. She was snappy. "Don't take pictures of my room!" She's been sick and she is embarrassed that her room has not been cleaned. She's been sleeping a lot.
I reminded her that gauged ears have been scientifically linked to mono.
It's scientifically proven.
I read it someplace.
It was important to say, because she has another ear, and who knows what she will do with that one. Now she knows the facts and can make an informed decision.

Her grandfather had sent her birthday present to our house, and we did not have a chance to get it to her until today. She read the card.

For her twentieth birthday, for her 'new age', for her decade past the teenaged years, he gave Cara her grandmother's pearls. Cara was very touched to receive this heirloom. I am hopeful that she will realize that pearls and gauged ears don't go well together.

Then it is bacck out into the cold. We load up Adolfo. I had improperly referred to the car as Alphonse, but I was curtly told 'Alphonse is just stupid.' But Adolfo is not a stupid name,' I said. 'No, it's not,' said Cara. So there you have it.

Headed out of town, I snapped the Clarion Court House. And just to show Bill that all the quaint coffee shops are not located in Wasilla Alaska, here's this. Slagle's Home Brew. Home brew generally refers to beer, but this is a coffee shop.

The Courthouse out the back window.

Headed back to the woods.

'Country road, take me home to that plaaaaaaace I beloooooooooooong....' The steel bridge at Blue Jay is being replaced. That's what the equipment is at the right side of the bridge.

Icy River. It was cold today. In the teens Tim gives a good blast on the horn as we pass by Bob and Judy's house again.
Gees. I have no desire to swim today. None.


This is highway 666. Like a beast, it splashed my coffee around this morning. I was forced to gulp a good third of the cup down in a hurry to avoid making a mess in the truck. The mountains in the background are mysterious places where cougars are reputed to roam. Except if you are part of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Then you swear that there are no mountain lions in Warren County. I've never seen any sign of them, although our friend John has a picture of one that he took. It is blurry, but you can plainly see the tip of its long tail. The Game Commission says that it is a bob cat. Its face does look like a cougar to me, but who am I to argue with the mighty minds of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. So I don't, unless I have the opportunity to see one with my very own eyes. The Barnes Cemetary was quiet again on the way back home. On the way past in the morning, there was a back hoe hard at work, and a truck with a vault on it. Strange to think isn't it? As Tim and I cheerfully chattered in our truck, somewhere else, a family grieves. That's life, isn't it? That's the way of it.
It was about then that the second batch of batteries gave one final wheeze and died. Here endeth the pictures.
After looking at Adolfo, it appears that the problem is minor, not a blown headgasket. Yay. We are headed out the door again. Tomorrow we are celebrating my grandniece's second birthday and have a gift to buy. And then we will come back and snuggle on the couch to watch the rest of 'A Town Called Alice'. Neither of us has seen it before. I've a notion that Tim is about tired of it, but he likes to snuggle on the couch, so he'll probably endure the movie.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Weigh In

Drum roll please... I lost another two pounds. Actually, it was over two pounds, just a bit, but I have those darn doctor scale type thing, and figuring it out would require that I find my reading glasses, and doing that before I'd had coffee just seemed like a lot of work, and so I decided that the mature thing (it's only coincidental that it's the easiest thing as well) was to just call it two pounds and go to the coffee pot, go directly to the coffee pot, and so I did. Now I'm sitting here with my morning cup, slowly waking up and reading about what's going on in the great world of blogs. For those following this saga with bated breath, that's a total weight loss of 5 lbs for the month of January.

We're going to Cara's today, to haul her car home. It has an engine that is overheating. The car (named Alphonse) has been teetering on the edge of death for quite some time. We have a new car for her here. Remember that 'new' is a relative term. New in relationship to Alphonse. The problem is that this newer, sharper looking car is a standard, and she's never driven a standard before, and we want to give her a few lessons before we turn her loose in it. We felt that winter was not the time to be learning a new driving skill, so at spring break she'll come home, we'll do the title transfer, and let her master the stick shift.

This trip is not only to get the car. It is a mission of mercy as well. Cara is sick. She thinks she has strep again. She sounds pretty bad. I told her that this is what happens to girls who get their ears gauged. Cara has always had a tendency towards strep. She had her tonsils removed when she was 15 or so because of it. After starting college she ended up with mono. The bad strain. They told her that whenever she was stressed or tired, that she'd probably begin having mono symptoms again. This will last for the rest of her life. Unfortunately, she's a college student, keeps impossible schedules and stresses a great deal over her job. But she's sick again. I've got a pot of broccoli simmering for a pot of broccoli cheese soup. I baked bread on Wednesday, so I've got some good homemade rolls to add. We'll also take down some oranges, just for healthy snacks.

Late Edit: they are pretty sure (pending blood test results) that she has mono yet again.

You know, I'm going to like school. I really am going to like it a lot. Yesterday, in one of my classes, we were dissecting an essay on happiness. One of the young boys in the class, a big tough looking fellow, said that he thinks that sometimes people live in bad situations and simply can't be happy, that sometimes, life purely sucks and there's not a whole lot to be done about that. I offered the counter point of the joy I saw at the cancer support meetings. I said that we can choose to throw tantrums when we face a life challenge, or we can choose to learn the lessons of the time, to find the joy in it, to be happy. It was a brief comment in a swirling miasma of comments. Later, I was in another building to drop off some paperwork at financial aid. As I headed out the door for the parking lot, a voice behind me said, "HEY!" I didn't even realize that the young man was speaking to me, until he fell in step beside me. "I think that you're very inspiring," he said. His friend's mother is dealing with cancer, and his friend is having a hard time being away at college during this uncertain time. He's trying to be helpful to his friend but is also having a hard time, because he cannot find the right words. We talked about that a little, briefly, and then went our separate directions. I walked out into the cold gusting winds and the swirling snow and picked my way to the car, but inside, I was warmed by the contact, by that small interaction.

Today, I've decided not to crack my books. I'm actually ahead of the game. I have an essay due Thursday. I have a quiz that day as well, but I feel like I'm up for it, even now. The books will stay in my back pack. I don't have to work today either. (The job is going well, by the way.) I will get the house cleaned, and a couple loads of laundry, and a pot of soup made for my sick kid. I will spend the evening with my husband. In a way, I feel like a little kid learning to ride a two wheeler. 'Don't stop pedaling.' 'Don't look back.' 'Keep the handlebars straight.' Somewhere along the line, you suddenly realize that there is no one holding on to the bike, that somehow, impossibly, you're doing it, you're flying all by yourself, and the realization is thrilling, and your voice sounds out, shrill with excitement: 'Look at me! Look at me! I'm doing it all by myself.' I know it sounds stupid, but that's how it feels. I am juggling my family, and my job, and school. I didn't know if I could, but I am, and that makes me very glad.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

You know, I heard this on the radio the other day on the way to school and it made me laugh. Figured that I'd pop it on the blog, and you all would laugh too.




But watching the actual video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qrriKcwvlY), I realized for the first time what the song is about. For twenty-plus years, we've been shucking and jiving to a song about nuclear annihilation?

Huh.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Place of My Own

When the kids grow up and move on, well, a house gets empty places. Empty rooms full of memories and discarded furniture.
When computers are upgraded, the old one needs a place to go.

Maybe a comfortable old chair is not good enough for the living room.

Say you take that empty room maybe, and open it up and you add a mix match of old furniture, and you add a few of your own favorite things... Windchimes because I like windchimes.
My clock, because the ticking and chiming of a keywound clock is a soothing and comforting thing.

Add a few pictures of places I'd like to see some day...

...or maybe one or two that evoke something
Mr. Bean because he makes me laugh and he reminds me of the people who like to laugh with me...
Say I gather all of these things up and I put them all in one room, what do I have?
I have a quiet place to study. I have a little room to think in. To write in. To daydream in.
I have a room of my own.
And if you ever came to visit, you could borrow my little room, because I surely don't sleep there.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pop Quiz

We had a pop quiz today. My first test. I got an 83. Not stellar, but you know, it's okay. I feel like I'm getting my footing.

LATE EDIT: Okay, let me make it clear. Perfectly clear. I'm not unhappy with the 83 (which would be a B, Novel Woman). What I was saying is that it was not stellar compared to about a half dozen other kids who got 100 per cent. I think it was a good solid test score, and it proves that I am studying properly. I was happy about the grade. Hopefully this makes BB and Mrs. Spit feel better about my 'impossibly high standards'. Bill? Still haven't figured out who rode Tonto's horse....right on the tip of my tongue...

Crossing the River with Dogs

Okay, I had my math class last night. I've always seen myself as kind of a simpleton in the wonderful world of numbers, but you know, it wasn't bad at all. I know it was only the first day, but the teacher explained to us that basically, there are lots of different ways to solve a problem. Not only that, but some problems have more than one answer. I found myself thinking, "Well, hey, here's math I might be good at..." I had not cracked this book. I'd been too busy with the other ones. Glancing through it, I realized that it is basically a book full of word problems. When I was in elementary school, word problems were the bane of my existance. However, I was surprised to find myself intrigued by them. Our assignment today? To not only solve the problem, but to draw a picture of how we solved the problem. Argh. I came home from class and did about half of my homework last night. And when I woke up in the night, I found myself working out problems in my head.

Psychology this morning. The mandatory class for all students after that. A book to return at the tutoring center. A stop at the financial aid office to drop off some paperwork. Stop at the health clinic to provide proof of immunization. Then I head directly to my first day at work. It's going to be a long day. This week, I have two very long days. I've got a casserole in the refrigerator for Tim's supper, but still, I feel badly for him. I'm working hard, but he's making some big sacrifices too.

I had a chance to visit with a friend this afternoon while making copies yesterday. It was one of those soul satisfying talks. Terrie's death had been much on my mind as I went through my day, and the simple joy of visiting with a friend was hugely comforting. I came away strengthened and encouraged, and moreover, later I received an e-mail from her saying that she felt the same.

Life is tremendously exciting for me right now, but I am really grateful for the solid foundation of my own marriage, for Tim's quiet focus, for good friends who don't hesitate to share.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Terrie

Last year, I blogged about a woman I met at the Cancer Center. Today I saw that she died. The picture of her was evidently a pre-cancer shot, and it surprised me, the vitality, the joy on her face. I'd only met her after she was very obviously ill. She was a brave person, and her concern for her family outweighed her concern for herself. I found myself thinking of her on and off during the day. She was remarkable in her own quiet way.

What a gift our lives are. What a gift. Sometimes we manage to forget that in our grueling slog from one difficult day to the next, but really, each day there is something to see, something to hear, something to make us glad for the day. Every day. We just have to remember to look for it.

Today, thinking about Terrie, I've remembered, and I was glad for this day. Over and over again, I was glad.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Blame

It's been an exhausting week. A lot of new stuff. A lot of firsts. I got hate mail, for the first time in my life. It was truly, truly awful. The words were devastating and painful. It was mystifying to me. A person immediately sprang to mind, but it seemed ridiculous. I had not had contact with this person for years. I could think of no provocation. Just the idea that someone was harboring this hatred for years until it burst into that kind of ugliness was a little bit frightening to me.

Now, just a few years back, I'd have been in an agony of doubt. I'd have been listening to angry people telling me that it was all my fault, that I deserved it. I've just kind of stepped out of that circle. I've replaced that with friends who affirm me. Because I feel better about myself, I gasped at this letter. I cried. But I also handled it. I contacted the person I felt was responsible. I laid out my case. I turned it over to a man from Homeland Security.

I received a call tonight. It was an apology. It was a confession. It was an acknowledgement that I'd done nothing to provoke it. I heard it for the first time. The words were said. There was a complete breakdown, and, from the middle of the tears, it was said out loud: "This is not your fault."

No one has ever said that to me before. It has always been my fault.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rocking the Gray Hair...

You know, this gray hair of mine is going to be my ticket to success. I had a ton of stuff to do today, and I wound up at the college library, and then scooted up to 'Main St.' which is a tutoring/study center. They have my psychology book, which is more than I can say for my own self . I was going to do my assignment there since the text book I ordered had not appeared yet. I got there at about 3:05. Much to my surprise, I found out the place closes at 3 on Friday. "Well, I'll just come back Monday then," I said, and prepared to head back out, embarrassed by my mistake. The woman said, "Wait. Tell you what. I have two text books. Take one of them over the weekend, and just bring it back next week." And she handed me the book. Just like that.

You just have to know how to work this gray hair stuff.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Straightening out the Blog.

First of all, I guess that I need to apologize. When I'm coming up on a busy time, I generally get a little line-up of posts together, just in case I can't get to a posting that day. Somehow, I managed to screw up the dates, which allowed a bunch of stuff to publish before I was ready for it to get published, before it got proof read for the final time, that sort of thing. So you ended up with one incomplete post and a glut of other posts. What a mess. Let me try to do some house cleaning here.

Okay. Just for the record, 'no change' in the mammogram is a good thing. The reason that the last films were so important was that scar tissue and cancer are kind of hard to differentiate. So what they look for is change. Scar tissue does not grow. (I wish the same thing could be said about cancer.) So the return of my lost films from Pittsburgh was mighty good news and yes, the fact that there is no change in the mammogram is more good news. I really try to be brave, but I am surprised at how affected I am by things like this. Ashamed even. When I mentioned this to the woman who did the pictures, she was quick to give me a little pat on the arm. "Don't," she said. She talked about how all woman are afraid to find out that they had cancer. She talked about the fact that I'd already heard those words, and so of course it was going to be nerve wracking coming in for these sorts of tests. Just her matter of fact way, her cheerful talking. She was a veritible font of information, and tremendously reassuring. God bless Sheryl!

Weight. Again, you folks don't need to know how much I weigh. My intent is to log my weight loss. After two weeks of dieting, I'd only lost 1 lb. I was not a happy camper about this. I added Slim-Fast to the equation. I whip myself up a glass of Slim Fast for breakfast. I have a glass of Slim-Fast at lunch time and a salad or a Special K bar and an orange if I'm on the run. I have a small supper. No snacks. Zero tolerance for snacks. Weight loss this week? Well, by golly. I lost two pounds. TWO POUNDS! Argh. I think that I have unrealistic expectations. When we had television reception, I used to like The Biggest Loser, and they'd post these phenomenal weight losses for the week. Real life is not like that, I guess. I've lost a total of three pounds from the beginning of the year. The scales are headed in the right direction. One of the things that is cool is that as a college student, with my brand new college ID, I have access to a gym. I plan to make use of that. Right now, my exercise plan involves parking as far as I can from where ever I am going, and then walking. I am probably the only person on campus who figured out that she has two classes as far apart as you can get on that tiny little campus, that she only has 15 minutes to get from one to another
and did a little happy dance at the discovery.

School? Well first of all, I want to thank A Novel Woman for all the practical advice. (Don't take egg salad sandwiches in your lunch. If I take valentines, take enough for the whole class.) My little buddy Sam will protect me on the playground while WhiteStone and I jump rope. I felt much better, believe you me! I've gone to all of my classes, except for the math. "Crossing the River with Dogs." What a strange name for a math book! I'd be a liar if I said that I wasn't pretty curious about this class. English class is going to be good. No real tests, but lots and lots of writing. I was nervous walking in the door, but once the teacher got talking, I got listening, and I found myself really looking forward to this class. "If you are a good writer, you will be a better writer when you leave here." That was enough for me. And remember 'Bass Girl'? The one that I could not stop staring at, because she had the pierced lip with the dangling earring, which gave her the appearance of a landed bass? Well. She is a very quiet girl. You could tell that classroom participation was going to be a big deal for her (it's a large part of the grade...) but she tried very hard to be a part of things. And when the teacher asked, "Do we have any journalers here," she and I raised our hands. She writes every day, because it's how she makes sense of things when life gets confusing. I write for the same thing. The two of us looked across the classroom at each other, and saw that we are the same. I liked that. I liked it a lot. I think that we will be friends.

Psychology class. Well. I almost didn't make it. I discovered how NOT to drive to school. I got caught in traffic, and it took forever until I got to a place where I could turn off, and go around the block, and approach the school entrance from the other direction. I was walking at a fast clip, met another girl who was headed to the same classroom, and we walked together at top speed. We both walked into the classroom at about the same time as a couple other students. The teacher was taking attendance already, and immediately gave us a lecture about being late. I stopped and pointedly looked at the clock, which was still a minute away from 8:30. She snapped that we should plan on being early. There were assigned seats, and I took mine, between two teenaged boys, one of whom, evidently had not received A Novel Woman's memo about not eating egg salad. The class was interesting, and thought provoking. I can't wait to begin doing the work for that. Unfortunately, this is the only text book that has not arrived yet. It was sent on the fourteenth, and I am starting to worry.

My last class was a prerequisite 'how to do good in college' thing (yeah, the grammar lapse is supposed to be funny...) I've written my first essay (due next Thursday) and I've got my assignment for Tuesday done as well. Today I am headed to the library to do my Psychology assignment, using their textbook since my own has not arrived. Then I've got three chapters of English to do by next Wednesday. Every little item that I tick off my to do list makes me feel much more confident.

Scary? Yes.
A little overwhelming? Yes.
Can I do it? Yes.
Excited? Oh yes.

Oh. And I officially start work on Tuesday.

Looks around. Yep. I think I've got this blog tidied up.
*wipes hands on the sides of her pant legs*
There.
Talk atcha later!

Cara Celebrates Another Birthday

For Cara's 19th birthday, she got herself a tattoo. She was away at college, and this one slipped right by me. There was no discussion. The girl got a $50 check and the tattoo place had a special deal going, and she had just studied the divine sign of Constantine and...well...the rest is history.

Cara had another birthday yesterday. She got another check from her dad. I got another call. She and a group of friends had their cartilage pierced. By golly, I didn't just fall off the turnip truck yesterday. Cautiously, I said, "Um. What cartilage, exactly?" She snorted. "In my ear. I had my ear gauged." I'm not clear on what this means, but when you hear the words 'industrial barbell' in a conversation about your child's ear, well, I'm thinking that I won't be really excited about this. I also think that for her 21st birthday, her father needs to actually buy a gift for her. Hard to tell what would happen if a birthday check and a few drinks got together.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bush Babe's Tag!

I got tagged over at Bush Babe's place: Eight by Eight. Way more information about Debby than you need or want to know.

Eight TV shows I watch.
Well. Since we don't really get TV at all any more (the switch to digital did not do us a lick of good), we just don't watch a lot of television. We get public television which is actually alright, but there are not a lot of shows that we both get excited about.

* The BBC News
* The Antiques Road Show
* This Old House
*As Time Goes By
*The Last of the Summer Wine
*American Experience
I really have to tell you, I can't list eight. The only shows that we watch with any regularity are The BBC news (nightly), the Antiques Road Show (Monday nights) and As Time Goes By and The Last of the Summer Wine (which we manage to catch about every other Saturday. We do watch videos on a sort of a semi regular basis.

Eight Places I like to eat and drink.

Oh, dear heavens. We're going to sound boring as all get out.
* We like to go to friends' homes.
* I like cooking in my own kitchen, with my own books, and my own things. I like trying new things. Tim is pretty much a meat and potato man (true story: he'd never eaten cottage cheese until he met me), and he's forever saying 'I don't think that I like asparagus (or gumbo or whatever new thing is on the menu)' and then deciding that he actually does, after all. He thinks that I am the best cook ever, and constantly says that, and because I am a superficial person, I like to hear it.
*Once we went to a restaurant called 'The Nickel Inn'. That was a very nice restaurant. Huge glass windows with hummingbirds buzzing all around as you ate, nice gardens. I enjoyed that.
*Bob Evans. I love their cranberry/pecan/chicken salad.
* and *. If we eat out, generally it's because we're in the middle of a renovation project downtown and do want to take the time to drive all the way home, clean up and cook something, and then head back down to continue the project. So we'll pop in for fast food. Yep. Disheveled and paint splattered or drywall speckled. Sorry for the visuals, but it's the truth. But if we go out, usually it is Wendy's (Chicken Mandarin Salad) or Subway (I love veggie subs ~usually make them myself~but if we're in a rush, well, Subway is cheap and healthy.


Sad. But really that's it. So, yeah, no list of eight for me there, either.

Eight things that I have learned from the past:

*People like to tell you what they are, but what they do is far more important than what they say.
*Kids are their own people. Don't get all caught up in your dreams for them, because they have their own dreams, their own plans. Their way may not be your way. It's a consequence of raising them to be independent and comfortable in their own skin.
*Getting knocked on your ass is another consequence of living. It happens to everyone at some point. Staying down there on your bottom is a choice. Whether you sit there because of fear, or because of shame, or because you've simply given up, well, it is a choice. A choice that you make.
*Kindness matters. This is a rough world we live in, and every last drop of kindness matters.
*Not every criticism of you is valid.
*Trust your own instincts.
*Every person has their own story. The best people are the ones who learn to tell that story ~ and learn to listen to the stories of others, because they realize that their story is not the most important story in the world.
*That I am no better or no worse than any one else on this planet.

Eight things that I look forward to:
*Spring.
*Growing old with my husband.
*There's a whole lot of folks in the blogging world that I want to meet, and yep, those women of Granite Glen and I have some serious celebrating to do. (Seriously, BB, meeting me is one of the eight things on your wish list?!!! Gawrsh. I don't know what to say. That's so very nice...)
*Watching my children's lives unfold.
*Graduating from college one day.
*Church on Sunday morning.
*Coffee with friends.
*Hanging out with friends.

Eight things I love about winter.

Cripes. Winter is not my season. Let's see if I can come up with eight things for this...

*Tim keeps our bedroom cold. I don't like that, but I do like leaping into bed and burrowing under the blankets and cozying up to the warm body next to mine and slowly getting warm and drowzy.

*When the weather really stinks, I stay close to home. I'm much more domestic in the winter, and I like that, the baking and the cooking, and the sense that I'm 'catching up'.

*I like bright sunny mornings when the sun shines on the snow and it is like a thousand points of light, and it hurts your eyes to look at it.

*I like the dark evenings, when you can curl up with an afghan and a husband, and a good book or a good video.

*I love the holidays that come in winter, and I love the gathering of families and friends.

*I like feeding the birds. We can only do that in the winter. In the summer, the bird feeders attract bears, who are just as entertaining as birds to watch, but unfortunately are way more destructive.

*I like the quiet of winter, the way life slips into a quieter mode. I also like the sounds of winter. The wind sounds different when it is howling in a snow storm than it does for any other season.

*I like flipping through seed catalogues that arrive during the winter. It just gives you such a happy feeling that spring follows winter, exactly as it has for all of eternity. Dark times do not last.


Eight things on my wish list.

*I want to see all of my kids find happiness and fulfillment and success in this life.

*I want to see Australia.

*That I never, ever have to hear the words 'it is cancer' ever again.

*That I get this weight that I gained during treatment back off again. I have begun a serious diet, since the beginning of the year. I'll be posting my weekly weight loss on Friday, and you are all welcome to diet right along with me if you want. Share what works, what doesn't, etc.

*I would like to write a book one day, but I don't know what it would be about. I don't think the world needs another book on breast cancer. I don't think 'Lifetime' needs more fodder for their made-for-television-real-life-docudramas.

*I want to make a difference in the world. A good difference.

*I wish that I could visit all fifty states. I've been in about half of them. I'd like to see them all.

*I'd like a little aviary. Inside my house. With finches, like at the local nursing home. I could watch those little birds all day long.

Eight things that I am passionate about:

*My marriage

*My children

*God

*writing

*my right of self determination

*my friends, the ones that I interact with in person, and the ones that I interact with via the internet. You all are great.

*being the best person that you can

*living quietly

Eight things I want/need:

*a car without a dashboard of flashing 'idiot lights'

*a laptop

*a lap cat

*a nice garden

*a grandfather clock

*a nice job that I love

*a library of fresh new books just waiting for me to read, one at a time, at my leisure.

*to travel

Okay. Now I have to tag eight people.

Sam? You're up, bub.

Stevie. You too.

Muse? You've been way too quiet over there.

Lavinia? You've been even quieter than Muse.

WhiteStone, I've sure enjoyed getting to know you. Here's a chance to get to know you better.

A Novel Woman...BB's your friend too.

Susan? Why don't you see if you can lasso Mikey in, too?

And if you all are too busy, don't you worry about this tag. If you all don't post, I don't think this is like Monopoly, where I'll go to jail, go directly to jail, not passing go, not collecting $200.

Friday Weigh In

I'm an emotional eater. I am afraid of that, and so I try very hard to keep on top of my weight. I'm not really a big 'weigher'. Normally, when my pants get tight, well, I start dieting. This year though. Argh. Breast cancer patients normally gain weight during treatment. Not being one to buck convention (heh), I plunked on some weight. You change shape too. Thicker around the middle. Add the job stress on top of that, and then the stress of not finding another full time job, and then what shall we do...well. Basically, I need to lose weight. I want to lose about 30 pounds, which is actually more than I gained, but I was reading that fat cells produce small amounts of estrogen. My cancer had hormone receptors. Since I'd like, very much, to not deal with cancer again, I'm determined to lose this. It's the right time. I'm excited about school. I've got a job again. I won't have a lot of time to sit around and fret about my situation.

Every Friday, I'll post my weight loss. Anybody that wants to lose weight along with me is welcome to do so. We can swap tips, encourage one another, if you like. I've been seriously dieting for two weeks now. Last week I lost one lousy pound. This morning I stepped on the scales to discover that I lost

Late Edit: Gees. Sorry about this. This was actually Friday's post. Friday is the official weigh in day.

PS: NW? Yeah, you notice that I did not post my weight. Not going to either. I'll post how much I lost, but it's not anyone else's business how much I weigh. Sorry about the confusion here, folks.

No Change

The mammogram was yesterday. It was supposed to be a couple weeks ago, but my films were lost in UPMC for a while. Our own hospital made the decision to proceed without them, but magically, they were found in Pittsburgh and returned to us just a few minutes before my appointment. Honestly. Things like this are aggravating.

I consider myself pretty unflappable. No pun intended. But you know, waiting in that room for the results, really, I was actually sick to my stomach. It's official. There is no change from the last films. No change.

I stopped by to say 'hey' to Mary, and then I headed for the car. I was surprised that before I could start the car, I had to have myself the tinsiest bawl.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

School Daze II

Oh, BB, thanks for the giggle. I needed that! Last night I was a nervous wreck about school. 'What have I done to my quiet life!' And then I'd look at the textbooks on my table and think 'Well, you've spent money, so you're committed to stay the course now...' I went to bed early. That was mighty good planning. It gave me a lot more time to lay awake goggle eyed in the dark. 'What if I find out that I'm dumb after all...' And when I did fall asleep, I dreamt chaotic dreams of rearranging the furniture in my house, changing the living room into the dining room, a jumble of furniture stacked, half moved, not fully decided on how to arrange things. And in the midst of that there were children to take care of. In one case, Dylan was a little boy wearing a spangly foam green swim suit. He had just come back from swimming. I pointed out that he was wearing a girl's suit, and he said, 'It's all we had, mom, and I really wanted to swim.' He looked ashamed. There was also a cat. A lost cat. A small black cat.
How transparent these dreams are, echoing my real life perfectly. I am rearranging my house so to speak, and the vision of Dylan as a small boy was a reminder to me of those traumatic days when I did not know how I was going to properly provide for my children. I didn't know if I could. It was a private nightmare of mine that they would go without, or be embarrassed by my inability to make ends meet. But I did make ends meet. We were okay. And just for the record ~ the boy never wore a girl's swimsuit. I know Dylan would want me to make that clear. But the little boy was a reminder. I faced hard times before, and I'd come through. I will deal with these challenges that I have taken on, and again, I'll meet it head on. The kitten? Well, he may have been lost, but he was someplace in a pile of my furniture. He never ventured out, not in that dream, but I'm not too worried about him. I take care of stuff. I figure out what I have to do. It's my nature. That kitten will be fine.

So this morning, I'm headed out the door to meet Mary, and then to the school. There is venison simmering with mushrooms, peppers and onions, for our supper tonight, and then I have an evening class. I just need to get this show on the road.

*shuts down computer*

School Daze.

First day of school.
I think that I'm sick.
I have an upset stomach.
Maybe it's swine flu.
I think that I should stay home.
And what if the teacher doesn't like me, or what if the other kids make fun of me? What if my bookbag isn't cool enough? What if I get lost?
*Whimper*
Who wants to hold my hand?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

No More Teenagers

I have been the mother of teenagers for 15 years now. Today, officially, I have run out of them.

Happy 20th Birthday, Cara.



PS: I still don't get why you think this is so funny.

Monday, January 18, 2010

You know how some times, when you're talking and catch yourself and you realize that you're not saying it right. Your words come out for all the world to hear, and it isn't what you were trying to say at all. Well. When you're a blogger, your words are in writing. Somehow that only seems to make it worse. Take yesterday's post.

I still firmly believe that Pat Robertson is a nut job. For him to broadcast to the world that 'Haiti is cursed' by a deal that they supposedly made with the devil to rid themselves of the French is just plain stupid. What the heck is he even basing that on? And to avow that no Christians were killed in the earthquake? What is he basing that on? If it is wrong to judge, well, I believe that judging 50,000 people in one sweeping generalization is 50,000 times as wrong. So no, I don't take back one criticism of Pat Robertson. I hope that anyone reading this who supports the man stops to think about what they are doing and why they are doing it. Maybe you'd like to think about taking that donation to Pat and donating it to the people of Haiti instead. I don't know. In the end, we all make our choices.

What needs clarification is the fact that I announced that I had wrapped pennies, and had $11 for Haiti. I encouraged you all to do the same, if you could, and invited you to let me know how much change you had to donate. My thought there was that it would be exciting to see our own small efforts coming together to be a big effort. Alone, my change doesn't amount to much. Combine that with everyone's change, well...now I'm worried that quantifying things may be making me look like a bragger or something.

Christmas has been a strange time for me. For one thing, it was far more emotional for me than I ever expected. I couldn't help looking back to last Christmas, when I was struggling to get the shopping done, the tree decorated. The nativity. It was the basics, and not much else, and I felt terrible about that last year. This year, I kept looking back, and feeling very, very blessed that I could go the extra mile this year, right down to the color coordinated curling ribbon on the gifts. I just could not seem to help looking back. No matter what I was doing, it seemed to remind me of what I wasn't doing last year. But then on top of all the looking back, there was also the New Year, which brought a bout of looking ahead. That 'looking through the mirror darkly' brought on a whole new thought process. I guess that I've gotten a lot more matter of fact about it. Will I be here next Christmas? Probably. But people die of cancer, so there's no guarantee for me. Shoot. There's no guarantee for any of us. I've just endured one of those times when life shudders and you are more aware of that fact than other times, I guess. I don't know. But anyways, it has been preying on my mind...'have I been a good mom?' and right away, I find myself striving to be better, to give meaningful little presents that make my beloved children see that life is beautiful and wonderful and meant for living. 'Have I been a good wife?', and right away, I find myself saying it more, loving him better, cooking especially for him, working harder at his side. And then there is this one: 'When I stand before God, will I be good enough?' I am a firm believer in 'Living the gospel always. If necessary use words.' With that in mind, I have found myself really looking at my little corner of the world during this holiday season, and what I see is need, and it makes me feel terrible, because I cannot meet all of that need. I can try. I can pick things out to do, but no matter what, when I am done there will still be...need, which is discouraging, and can make you feel as if you have not accomplished one blessed thing. Nothing. Mary and I were talking about that Friday night (when I whipped her in Scrabble...a minor, but important detail...). For the first time, it popped into my head: just like my idea that our pennies, our small change can add up to be a big deal, doing good is the same thing...if we all sought to do good, all of us collectively would make a difference in this world. Sort of like the pebble dropped into the pond. That thought made a big difference in my heart. Instead of wondering if I had done enough, effected a big enough change to satisfy my Maker, I found myself thinking, 'just do good'. That's all. Just do good every chance I get, and hope that other people adopt the same kind of thinking.

I got a trifle carried away, I suppose, excited at this concept, couldn't wait to bring it to the blog. The quantifying, I suppose is simply proof to myself that my idea of doing what you can, with whatever you have, no matter how little, no matter how much is workable. That this thinking can effect a change. What I want you all to do is see the need in your little corner of the world, what I want you to do is to do good where ever you are. Be a positive influence. I'm not trying to paint myself as some sort of saint. I'm not. I'm not an angel. None of that. I am just a person who struggles, day by day, just like most of you, to do the right thing. To be a good person. I wanted to offer encouragement to all of us, a new way to look at it. I was in no way shape or form intending to glorify myself by yesterday's post, and I am sorry for anyone that I may have offended.

Well, what are we all just sitting around for? Let's get going. We've got good to do.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nut Job

Pat Robertson has publicly claimed that 'no Christians died in Haiti'.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/16/pat-robertson-haiti-quote_n_425841.html

Every single time that I hear something like this, it makes me sick to my stomach. Literally. Every single time that something like this is said, it sets back the cause of Christianity immeasurably. "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Jesus said that one, Pat. But despite the fact that he stands before his flock breaking one of the ten commandments repeatedly, his ministry continues to thrive. This scares me. The man is crazy.

Money is tight for everyone. I wrapped our pennies. We have $11 to donate to the folks in Haiti. If everyone sat down and wrapped their pennies, I'm pretty sure that our small change could make a big change. If you decide to go for it, leave a comment. Let me know how much you were able to donate out of your change. It would be fun to watch our pennies add up.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Do Good

I went over to Mary's last night. Her husband works for Penndot, and in the winter he works from noon until 8 at night. Unless, of course, the weather's crap. And then he works from noon to whenever. Anyhow, I took salad over, and Mary's Christmas gifts. We just hadn't had time to get together during the holiday. It was a nice evening, a chance to sit and talk. In fact, we talked so much that the scrabble game we were playing took three hours. (Side note: I played a masterful game and whupped her tail. I even used all of my letters on a double word score and nabbed the extra fifty points. But I digress.) Mary said, "You know something's been bothering me since I read it. Did you see yesterday's paper?" I realized that I had not. I'd been up at 5:30, and out the door by 7:30. It had been a pretty full day, and I'd never slowed down enough to read the paper. She pulled it out and read an entry on the police blotter. A 76 year old man had been arrested in the local Walmart. For stealing food.

Food.

These are hard times for a lot of people, and the idea that an old man is going hungry right here in our own community was a sobering one. His address was printed right there next to his name and age. There could be mental issues, I suppose, some sort of dementia thing going on. Or alcoholism. But maybe he was hungry.

Mary and I have been friends for pretty much all of our lives. She looked at me and asked, "What do you think we should do? I feel as if I'm supposed to do something." And it came to me. We should do good. People act as if life is so complicated sometimes, but really the answer is simple. We should all do good. And so this afternoon, an old friend and I will get together once again, and we'll get a box of groceries together, and will drop it off. We'll do good. Who knows what will come of it? But we'll do good.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Flying by the Seat of My Pants

I'm enrolled in College Math Problem Solving, College Composition, Psychology, and two introductory courses that new students have to take. Tim keeps telling me that I'll breeze through it. I don't know. It would be nice to think so, but I won't know until it begins. On Wednesday. Five more days. Only. Five. More. Days. ACK! It's kind of nerve wracking, this college stuff, because I'm jumping into it with both feet. It's all moving quickly. For instance, I'm starting school and not sure how the finances will unfold. And books! They are expensive. I saved about half purchasing them online instead of at the campus book store, But still, I spent $108. on books! Last night in bed, a horrifying thought occurred to me. "Tim," I whispered. "What if I buy all these books and then Wednesday I get bad results on my mammogram?" And calmly, Tim whispered back, "The books can be resold." Good answer.

I went to the college today, and I got my college schedule. I also went to my new job, to resolve some scheduling issues, and to give my new boss my school schedule. I ran a bunch of errands, stopped by the library. By the time that I got home, there was a phone call telling me that one of my classes had been canceled. Despite the initial heart failure on my part, they were able to get me into another class that fit into my schedule so that I did not have to go back to my job and give them a change to my schedule.

I guess this is what it called 'flying by the seat of your pants'. I've never done that before. I've always been a thinker and a planner, and a 'dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's' type girl. I think that maybe, when I was younger, I was more inclined to leap off into the unknown, but when life bites you (and bites you hard), you begin to play it safe. You stop taking chances. You find great security in safety. I think that is what happened to me, and I never even realized it. So I'm flying by the seat of my pants, and I'm scared to death.

But also today, while I was in the college bookstore, a nice young man from London helped me with ISBNs. He looked at my schedule and said, "Your Psych teacher is a rotten one." He got a B+, but he was one of the few. "Take lots of notes," he advised. I nodded. I wanted to ask him how someone from London wound up in a little community college on the New York/Pennsylvania border, but I was too shy to. He was being awfully nice to a gray headed old woman, and I didn't want to press my luck. And then at a college office, I explained a difficulty, and a woman there helped me out. When she finished talking with me, I said, "Thank you so much. I was ashamed to ask, I mean the professor doesn't know me from Adam, and I didn't want her to think I was some slouch..." And the woman gave me a long look. "That's right," she said. "The teacher does not know you from Adam now, but she will, and she will be impressed with you." I looked at her, startled, and she steadily looked right back. All I could think of to say was 'thanks', once again, and I was off. When I popped in with my school schedule for work, Helga saw me, stopped what she was doing, screamed, and headed for me with her arms wide open. "I couldn't believe it when Nancy told me that Angie was going to hire you!" And she started introducing me around while I waited for the boss to finish what she was doing.

I drove home after a long and exhausting day of running. The radio was playing, and I sang along with Sheryl Crowe.



Today, I felt something I haven't felt in a long time. It was exhilaration. Man. I almost didn't recognize it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Inquiring minds want to know...

Questions, questions, questions. I'm trying to get this college stuff sorted out, and really, it's like a foreign language. I feel like a ninny. I ask a lot of questions. Immediately, I began to feel a bit overwhelmed by all the questions going on in my life. In typical Jeanie fashion, I began to make a list. This helps because, with my very own little eyes, I can see that I'm making progress here, even though I have an awful lot of questions.

Orientation for college, part one, today. Tick.

Filled out the supplemental application for the program to turn in tomorrow. Tick.

Did FAFSA application. Tick.

Worked out a two month schedule so that my boss will know my availability. Tick.

Got my book list together. Tick. Even located them online, cheaper. Tock? Also discovered that my math book is called 'Crossing the River with Dogs'. I've got questions: Why are we crossing a river? I can't swim. I didn't know that swimming was a prerequisite. They didn't say swimming was a prerequisite. Why can't we just cross a road, with the chickens? Is that an option? And how many dogs are we talking about anyway?) I'll go to the campus bookstore tomorrow and get the IBSN numbers just to be absolutely sure before I place the order.

When it all comes right down to it, I'm a little worried. I'm not sure I'm ready for college. I can't swim, that's part of it. What if I sink? But here's the other thing. I saw a girl with a pierced lip. She did not have a stud in the pierced lip, but a dangly earring. Dear heavens. I found myself unable to tear my eyes away from her. She looked like a hooked bass, with the spinner hanging from his lip. I found myself staring, and I truly didn't mean to. But it fascinated me. And there was another girl with a tattooed face. Like Maori tribal designs. But if she was Maori, I'll eat my hat. I had more questions. Who would do that? And why would they do that? And how can you eat with a lip like that? And do facial tats create problems when you are trying to get a job? And is this a sign that I am too old (or too immature) for college?

Oh, and another thing. I don't blog everything in my little world. This news might surprise you, but there is an amazing amount of stuff that happens in my life that you never hear about. I waffled back and forth on whether this was something that you would need/want to know, but here goes. Okay. As you walk down the hall past our kitchen entrance/stairs to the second floor, an odor developed. It was icky. Not overwhelming, but definate. Tim got cranky at me the other day. I'd brought a laundry basket downstairs, after putting the clean clothes away. I set it in the hall and was using it to toss dirty laundry into to take back downstairs. When Tim saw a damp kitchen towel in there, he immediately read me the riot act. "This is what smells!" he declared. I disagreed with him. The smell had been plaguing us for a couple days, and the laundry basket with the damp towel in it was a recent decorating touch. But I took the towel down to the basement where the laundry room is, and listened to him complaining. But the smell was still evident after a couple more days, and I really looked everywhere for the problem. Was it something to do with the time that my old dog Buck had lost control of his bladder on the stairs? I scrubbed and I cleaned, and I sniffed, and still, the smell remained the same. I was about at my wits end. Today, determined to get to the bottom of this, Tim cut out a large chunk of dry wall. He found the corpse of a dessicated little mouse. Ew. This brings us to my last question: Now when stuff like this happens, do you blog it, or do you just pretend that everything smells wonderful in your world?

Answers to any or all of the above questions greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stole It, Not Sorry

Wasilla Bill posted this:

Update: Perhaps some of you have wondered as I have how you might help the people of Haiti. Here is a link with different aid providers that you can contribute to:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/01/haiti_earthquake_how_to_help_a.html?sc=fb&cc=fp

Thanks, Bill.

It's kind of hard to wrap your head around a tragedy of this magnitude. The smallest gift can make a difference. I'm going to wrap pennies tonight.

Glimpses

You know, one of our Christmas gifts was 'The New York Times'. We get the Sunday edition in the mail, and I save that fat newspaper until the following Sunday, and read it in the afternoon, sprawled on the couch, with my reading glasses hanging off my nose.

What a treat that is! Locked as we are in our quiet little corner of the world, we are used to the quiet life that unfolds around us here. We get our news from the radio, or from the internet, or the BBC News on PBS. I don't buy magazines for the most part. Too pricey. So this newspaper is exciting stuff, the news in depth, the stories fascinating. Today, for instance, I realized that we're actually lucky compared to how other people in other parts of this country are weathering the recession, and as I read their stories, I stop to feel blessed. I read about weddings, young people starting their lives, the groom the son of Count and Countess --------- from France. I read a columnist who described her days as, "Getting up in the morning, and drinking her coffee, reading the paper, and then going to the gym." On the way home from the gym, she calls home to find out what her children want for breakfast and she picks that up on the way home for them. She talks about how difficult it is to 'do' lunch, because it requires multiple stops...one child will not eat fish and likes Italian, another is a flat out vegetarian who likes Indian. Dinner is casual, eating out with friends. (I laughed a bit at her fussy children. I cooked. I cooked one meal. As I explained it, "My job is to provide healthy food and plenty of it. If you do not like the meal, well, sorry, but I've met my scope of work...") There are advertisements for $3,000 watches and fur coats and expensive jewelry with names that I've heard about, even though I've never actually seen that sort of thing. And I wonder about the population who can flip through a newspaper and think, 'I like that,' and then stop in to buy it. There are stories about Iran, and Iraq and Afghanistan, South Africa, Denmark, glimpses of the New York City through the eyes of the people who live there.

It's dazzling, really, and I enjoy my Sunday afternoons, daydreaming about what it must be like to live the lives that I read about. Really though, when you get right down to it, I'm happy enough in the woods. I've baked five batches of homemade bread/rolls/cinnamon rolls this week, tweaking with a new recipe. Baked cookies. Shoveled snow. Hauled in the firewood. Did laundry. Washed countless dishes. Put Christmas away. Wound the key wound clock that chimes comfortingly from the back bedroom. I'm going to college. I have a new job working in a kitchen. I feed the birds and pet an old dog, and I ponder this world around me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stories Untold

Friday, we headed down to see Aunt Anna and Uncle Herman. I'd missed seeing them over Christmas because I had a wicked cold, and I couldn't justify going to the family Christmas party, possibly passing it along to a people who are in their nineties, some of them in pretty poor health. So I stayed home while Tim went, and I was pretty unhappy with the way it all worked out.

So we headed out Friday after the job interview for the two hour drive to see two of the finest people that I know. It was a quiet visit, but so very nice. Aunt Anna showed me a gift that they'd been given, a calendar with very old pictures. I flipped through it. When I came to a picture of a group of boys wearing knickers, Uncle Herman smiled. "Oh, I remember knickers," he said. "I remember how badly I wanted to wear long pants. They had just gotten popular with the boys, but my mother did not want to hear about styles. She didn't care about that. I wore knickers over top of those heavy socks that came up over your knees." "Do you remember your first long pants?" I asked, and he answered "No. After all of that, I don't. I just remember how I hated my knickers." And Aunt Anna reminisced about her brother George, who was much older than she. He was in college, a seminarian, and was wearing long pants, but managed to get the cuff stuck on a stake as he walked across the yard. He fell flat, and a small stack of letters from his girl, Eloise (who he married, and that marriage endures to this very day) went flying. Aunt Anna and her sisters snatched them up and headed in all directions with them. And the stories went on and on, punctuated by soft laughs and far away looks as they sat rocking in their chairs, facing each other across the living room. Uncle Herman talked about properly curing a ham, and smoking fish (and the time that the shack that they had built out of hemlock to smoke the fish in had caught fire). They talked about making storage mounds for your potatoes and apples, so that they would last the winter. They talked about spring houses and chickens they had known. How homemade cottage cheese is far better than store bought (and since I used to make my own cottage cheese and yoghurt, I can attest to the truth of this.) Stories of their childhood, how much Uncle Herman loved sledriding in the winter, just about better than anything, and the time that he went down a hill, lying on the sled on his belly, his sister Mable sitting on his back. He still laughs at the memory of his sister screaming the entire way down the hill, stopping only after they crashed into the willow tree.

Old voices recounted old stories, and I truly could have listened to them forever. On the way home, I stared into the darkness. I love looking at old pictures, but it thrills me to know people who know the things of these old pictures, who remember life as it was back then, and I think that if I ever wrote books, one of them would be 'Stories Untold'. Countless stories reside in the minds of countless frail and elderly people, and are on the verge of being lost forever.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Official

It's official. My husband is sleeping with a coed. I cannot believe how many friends and family have said, "You deserve it." I cannot believe that it is happening. But it is. After 11 years of marriage, I'm still in shock, I guess, that I am headed for college.

FYI

I found a recipe for yeast rolls that is just dandy. The bread comes out light, the tops golden, but it's not a crusty sort of roll. So I've been tweaking around with this recipe for the last three days, making cinnamon rolls and doubling the recipe, and halving the recipe, etc. Fresh bread every day.

Know what?

The smell of fresh baked bread does something to a man. I'm not sure what, but mine becomes agreeable and very lovey dovey. When I pop freshbaked cinnamon rolls in front of him, I'm pretty sure that I could ask him anything, and no matter how outrageous it was, he'd do it.

Disclaimer: I am not suggesting that you use this to manipulate or control the man in your life. I'm merely posting this as an FYI. For edification purposes only.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Genes

Cara went to the store, and found a Madagascar fleece throw on sale for $2.00. She didn't need it. Wasn't sure what she was going to do with it, but she bought it. Because it was only $2.00. She showed me when she got home. "Proof," she said. "It's genetic." I laughed. I'm pretty thrifty. Cara went on, "When Dylan and I went shopping, he was looking at some stuff, and said, 'Gees, this is a good buy.' Cara said, "What would you use this for?" and Dylan said, "I don't know, but gees, this is a good buy,'' and Cara nodded and said, "We can't help it. It is the mom in us," and the two of them laughed hard.

I don't know what was so funny, but the throw is a good start to a 'gift closet'. Just put that throw away, because some day, she'll need a cute little gift for someone, and voila! It'll will be there waiting.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow Business

Snowy morning out my back door.
The feeders were filled immediately after this sad photo.

Notice the track marks in the snow? These tracks actually led to Tim's recent stint in the dog house. We have a truck. And a plow. There was a problem with the plow, but poor Tim was sick (the same cold I got for Christmas...) and did not get to it before the recent spate of snow. This was completely understandable. I shoveled the entire driveway. Just as I finished, Tim fixed the plow. His timing was impeccable, but really, this did not upset me. I was glad the plow was fixed. Then he promptly drove the truck through the back yard (see tracks above) and buried that sucker! Now that, that, my friends, THAT got. my. goat! Especially when he came in the house laughing like this was the most fun he'd had in ages. Tim did get the truck unburied, and seemed to have a mighty fun time doing that, as well.
Men.
They are a strange and peculiar creature.

Just in Case

Room by room, Christmas has been collected and is in the process of being shoved back into the attic where it will sleep for another year. I saw a friend at the Walmart the other day while I was picking up that percolator. She was there to pick up another tote for her Christmas stuff. "How do I keep accumulating this stuff?" she asked. "Dunno," I said, "but Kathy, every year my attic gets smaller. How does that happen?" And she got wide eyed, because she thought that she was the only one with that problem. One of life's mysteries, I imagine.

So, anyhow, I'd taken down the tree, disassembled the tree (first year for an artificial ~ Dylan was stunned. He believes that this might well be the Christmas that lives in infamy.) I boxed up the Christmas village, and I packed away the nativity. I hauled the boxes up to the second floor landing as I filled them. When I was done, I pulled down the attic door, and unfolded the stairs, and began to haul boxes into the attic.

In the attic, very suddenly, I found myself thinking, "Put the tree and the tree ornaments in the front for Tim. Label the Nativity too. The other things will be too much for him." I was still for a moment in that cold, dark attic. Where did that come from? It was as if I'd picked up, briefly, a slightest bit of distant radio signal, one that was immediately lost again in the static. There was nothing else. I don't consider myself morbid or maudlin. It wasn't something that caused me to cry or be fearful. It was just a practical sort of thought that came to me very clearly. So I put the Christmas dishes to the back. The Christmas village went in next. The nativity and the tree and the ornaments for the tree went up front, clearly labeled, easily accessible.

It was sensible.

Friday, January 8, 2010

And...

...today, I got one pointy toed high heel shoe inside the door. I have a part time job. It's a start. All I have to do is work hard. Shoot. That's easy.

Anniversary

Two years ago, nagged into it by Mikey, I began blogging. Two years later, 855 posts later, we've covered a lot of territory here. Job woes, kids, graduations, weddings, funerals, cancer... Wow. And still, life's funny like that.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cooking

Dylan watched me cooking. "I'm going to do more cooking," he vowed. And I assembled the shrimp scampi, giving lots of instructions. That's a pretty easy meal, and when it was time to eat, he groaned a couple times, "Oh, man, this is delicious..."

Will he actually take up cooking? Dunno. Sometimes I think that he comes home, fills up on good home cooking, and suddenly remembers that he actually likes eating...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Huh.

I took the college placement exam tonight. I walked in there with my three sharpened pencils and set them on my desk. I was immediately reminded of a Mr. Bean sequence, and wanted to burst out laughing. Probably stress. One quick look around proved to me what I already expected...I was easily the oldest person there. Even older than the proctor. Dangly earrings aren't going to make you feel any better about that, and I didn't dare to wear high heels. It was icy and I was sure that I'd bust my butt. So yeah, no false bravado radiating from my ears and feet. I was on my own, and I began to feel nervous. We began the test, and one by one, the kids finished and headed out, one at a time, until there were only two of us left in the room. I put the finishing touches on my essay, and then stood up at the same time that the girl behind me did. The proctor headed back to her, and so I stepped out into the hall to snorf down some coffee and take deep cleansing breaths. Naturally, I found someone to talk to, a secretary from the company and Tim and I met at all those many years ago when I first came back to Pennsylvania with the kids. She was thrilled to see me, and we were quickly catching each other up on what we'd been doing in the intervening years. The proctor stepped out into the hall, and it was the moment of truth.

Turns out I'm smart. Turns out that she believes that now is the time for me to get started in school, that I will be eligible for a lot more grants and scholarships because Cara is in college as well. Turns out that she is quite adamant that I should avoid job training programs and go straight for the degree.

I know that I'm not stupid, but I'm a little amazed to find myself deemed 'college material'. Tim says this proves what he's known right along. Tomorrow, I'll begin the financial aid stuff. Tonight, I'm simply going to let it all sink in.

I'm going to college.

And just typing those words, just seeing them on the screen, well, I've got tears in my eyes.

The Difference

I guess that I did make a couple resolutions for the new year. I didn't really think about them as resolutions, but something that I'd come to know, and begun to incorporate into my life. The fact is, I feel very different when I wear high heels and dangly earrings. Don't know why exactly, but I do. So I decided not to analyze it. What the hey...I've resolved to wear these things a little more often.

Now, since I haven't worn things like this in many, many years (too self conscious, afraid that people would think that I was trying to be 'all that', or attract attention to myself or something), this requires buying shoes for myself. I am a tightwad. Unemployed and frugal. I drop in to the Goodwill on a fair regular basis, checking to see what they've got. I hit it right today. I got two new pairs of expensive leather heels. I got a pair of leather clogs. A pair of jeans. A Braun hand mixer. A Clarion University sweatshirt (Cara's school). 'The American' by Henry James. Spent a whopping $7.52. I was darn pleased with myself, believe you me.

Anyhow, while I was waiting in line. I saw a small woman, poorly dressed, white shoelaces in her black boots. She had a pinched face, and her gaze stayed down. She met no one's eyes. She looked like a woman with a hard life, and I felt sorry for her straight away. Out of the blue, the thought came to me. What is the difference between her and I? I mean, really. I'm not a person who can throw money around either. Cancer crap. Unemployed. No education. I gathered my bags, and I left the store thinking hard about this one. What is the difference? And I did not know.

I stopped into Walmart. I still had to get Trevor his Christmas gift. He's been traveling, and there was no sense to send it before he arrived back home, so I had some time to think about this one. He's hard to buy for. I know that he is a stubborn luddite, and unhappy with most modern gadgets. I'd seen an interesting thing ~ a percolator. A 12 cup percolator. The cool thing about it is that it had no buttons. Nothing. Just plug it in, and it would brew your coffee. I knew that his coffee pot had broken some time ago. Even though Cara had specifically recommended not buying the coffee pot, for her grandfather, I couldn't think of anything else. So I stopped in to the Walmart to by this very retro coffee pot at the very unretro price of $43.

As I was striding through the store with my earrings swinging and my high heels tapping, I saw an acquaintance, one that I'd not seen for a while. Allan's head turned, and he did a double take. "Man," he said, "you're looking great! How are you?" and we visited briefly. "I'm good," I said. "It's really is all about learning to deal with the head games. I made up my mind, and really, I think that I'm good." And he nodded his ponytailed head, smiling. "You really look great," he repeated. He's probably the most sincere person that I've ever met in my life, very zen, so you know, because Allan said it, I believed it, and I walked away thinking, "Wow. These high heels and earrings really, really work..." laughing to myself a little bit.

By the time that I got to the car, I'd figured it out. Me and the woman in Goodwill are probably not all that different, not at all, at least not as far as our circumstances. What is different is that our attitudes. Life sometimes kicks my ass, but it has never beat me so far down that I can't get back up. I get discouraged sometimes, but it's not a permanent thing. Never. Some people, well...I guess that life defeats them. Life wins. They become the losers. It's another head game, just like I told Allan. By the time I was putting my stuff in the car, suddenly, I was very glad to be me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Quitter

Cara and I had a chance to visit as she sprawled on the stairs, and talked to me as I worked in the kitchen getting the bread ready.

"Mom," she asked, "how can you tell if you're walking away from an impossible situation or if you're just a quitter?"

There's a question. "I guess that I'd have to say when you have done all that you can do, when you realize that you cannot change the situation, when the situation begins to make you miserable, affect your own life in a negative way, well, I guess that it's time to walk away, to move on to something else where you can make a difference."

You have to know yourself, I guess. You have to know your own limits. When it comes right down to it, it is a personal decision ~ when does enough become enough? I didn't tell her that no matter what, you'll have people who call you a quitter. What matters though, is what you call yourself.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fear Factor

Today is the mammogram, just sort of a follow up to keep an eye on that 'area of activity' in the left breast. As I made the bread for yesterday, Cara and I talked, and she asked me if I were worried.

"No." I said. And it is the truth. I've barely given it a thought, caught up in the holiday activities. Last fall I would have been afraid. This year, well, you simply learn to live with it. It is what it is.

Another friend had a difficult moment during her holiday when her daughter became emotional about her mother's cancer, afraid that she had not been told all there was to tell. And the mother was grieved by her daughter's emotional outburst. It is hard. When she told me, I grieved too. For her, for her daughter.

It is what it is. We can learn to live with quite a bit. Very difficult stuff becomes 'the norm'. But our children. Oh, my God, our children. The fact that they are affected deeply by our uncertainties, well, that is the thing that will break a mother's heart. I was gentle with Cara when she asked. "No," I told her. "I am not afraid," but in my heart of hearts, I grappled with my fear that she might be.